Jeff Holbrook, physical education director for Peabody Charter School in Santa Barbara, knew he had a problem with the playground.
The school's primary bathroom that was located on the fringe of the playground was being totally rebuilt, and the construction firm had cordoned off half of the field in order to safely reach the construction site.
With 750 elementary students and one-half of the playground remaining, he knew he had to come up with another solution for recess.
Having been in a similar predicament when he worked in Palm Desert as a P.E. director, he had contacted a nearby country club and made arrangements for the students to use its facilities. After conferring with Peabody Superintendent and Principal Demian Barnett, who was completely on board, Holbrook in October contacted Vince Iuculano, assistant executive director of the Santa Barbara Family YMCA on Hitchcock Road, and asked if some arrangement could be made to provide the students with the facilities at the YMCA.
What came out of the outreach even surprised Holbrook.
Iuculano stated that the YMCA would provide as many of the activities that Peabody wanted complete with a supervising staff as well as the several professional YMCA managers that would run 45 minutes each, three days a week.
And the Y would do it for free.
All Holbrook had to do was provide the transportation for the students from the school to the YMCA, which was about a mile away.
What turned out to be a great partnership didn't begin until the first of this year for a variety of reasons. First, Hollbrook had to work out the kinks in terms of reworking the school's curriculum that included regular classes as well as the various art, music, drama and dance classes.
Then there was the matter of transporting the students to the Y via expensive school buses.
Both Holbrook and Principal Barnett came up with the idea of asking each student to come up with $15 for the five-month period. To their surprise, the money came in almost immediately with much enthusiasm. Apparently, both the parents and the students were excited by the idea.
Holbrook also solicited and got additional funds from Randy Weiss, community outreach officer for Union Bank.
It was then decided that only the fourth, fifth and sixth grades would be involved since that translated to 350 students, which was determined to be manageable.
The program started in January and will finish out in May.
At the Y, the students get to choose what they want to do given the possibilities, which are indoor basketball courts, indoor racquetball courts, swimming in the indoor pool complete with lessons if needed, and the outdoor soccer and wiffleball field. Accompanying the students each week are five to 10 parents of the Peabody students who volunteered to help maintain discipline.
To see the enthusiasm of the students when they arrive at the Y is a sight to behold. Their views of the P.E. program at the Y runs from "very cool" to "awesome" to "it's like summer camp."
Holbrook in particular is pleased because he has seen many of his students do activities that they had never done before, like swimming for the first time.
"I can't believe how this has worked out for the kids," he said, adding that he just marvels at the cooperation that has been generated by the Y and the school simply because he had a problem with a much smaller playground for this school year.
— Dave Novis is a member of the Board of Managers for the Santa Barbara Family YMCA.